The fiercest derby in Germany: Köln vs Gladbach

Jason Rodgers

Last weekend, 1. FC Köln hosted Borussia Mönchengladbach in a crucial Bundesliga game in the battle for a place in the Europa League next season. Even on paper this appeared to be a mouthwatering tie, but when you consider the fierce Rheinland rivalry between the two clubs, this fixture became even more important.

Just two years ago, tensions boiled over between the two clubs after Granit Xhaka’s dramatic stoppage-time winner for Gladbach. Whilst the Borussia-Park crowd celebrated a fantastic victory, 30 Köln supporters dressed in white boiler suits stormed the pitch and attempted to reach the home fans. Riot police were quickly on hand to attempt to control the situation, however, one officer was injured and Köln were left to condemn the behaviour of fans who had damaged the reputation of the club.

The rivalry between the two clubs has always been there due to their close proximity – Köln and Mönchengladbach are situated just 30 miles apart. However, the derby didn’t really intensify until the 1970s when both teams began to compete at the top of the Bundesliga table.

Gladbach were a powerhouse team in those days, winning three straight titles between the 1974/75 and 1976/77 seasons. Köln, under the leadership of club legend Hennes Weisweiler, were often one of Gladbach’s closest rivals, and ended their dynasty in 1978 with a spectacular league title, edging out the Foals on goal difference only.

Whilst both clubs are no longer at the forefront of German football, the Rheinland Derby remains as fierce as ever. People from Köln are known to be very proud of their city. Gladbach is a much smaller city in comparison and this is often the subject of taunting, as is the joke that their citizens share intimate relationships with farm animals.

Köln and Gladbach are known for their passionate ultras, who, thanks to the Bundesliga’s fan friendly pricing structure, can follow their club home and away, albeit while letting off flairs and fireworks along the way. The ultras hate each other with a passion, often competing to find the craziest way to upset the opposing fans.

Hennes the billy goat is FC Köln’s famous mascot. Eight billy goats have taken the responsibility as the club’s lucky charm over the years but it is the death of Hennes II where the controversy lies, with Köln fans insistent still to this day that the goat was killed by poisoning from Gladbach fans. Although there is little evidence to support this claim, Köln ultras have often responded with a banner of a decapitated foal, the symbol of Gladbach, making it clear this hatred is very deep rooted.

Köln were looking for a Rheinland Derby double over Gladbach this season after a superb 2-1 away win back in November, sealed with a dramatic late winner of their own from attacking midfielder Marcel Risse. The team are supported by the magnificent striking ability of Anthony Modeste with 23 goals, behind only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski in the goalscoring charts.

Gladbach meanwhile have improved dramatically since the managerial appointment of Dieter Hecking in December. The team have picked up 23 points in just 12 matches, and have climbed back from 14th in the table and potential relegation danger, to 8th and potential salvation after Champions League qualification last season.

Therefore, as you would expect, Saturday’s tie at the RheinEnergieSTADION was an absolute thriller. Predictably, Modeste provided a goal and an assist as he did everything he could to give the home side a victory, however goals from Jannik Vestergaard, Ibrahima Traoré and an 80th minute winner from Lars Stindl gave Gladbach a 3-2 victory. This ensured that Köln failed to pick up their first derby double in over 10 years.

Is the Rheinland Derby the fiercest rivalry in German football? Let us know in the comments below!

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